United States Parachute Association > Experienced Skydivers > SIM > Section 6-5

6-5: Water Landings

A. Why jump in the water?

  1. A number of fatalities have resulted from accidental water landings, usually because of the absence of flotation gear, use of incorrect procedures, and landing in extremely cold water.
  2. Water landing training is recommended to improve chances for survival from both intentional and unintentional water landings.
  3. The purpose of wet training (required for the USPA B license) is to expose the individual to a worst-case scenario in a controlled situation.
    1. Drownings are usually brought on by panic.
    2. Proper training should decrease the likelihood of panic and therefore decrease the likelihood of a drowning.
  4. The potential always exists for unintentional water entry due to spotting error, radical wind changes, malfunctions, and landing under a reserve rather than a main.
  5. Intentional water jumps are preplanned jumps into a body of water.
    1. With a few additional precautions, a water jump can be the easiest and safest of all skydives.
    2. Physical injuries and drownings are almost unknown on preplanned, intentional water landings.
  6. These recommendations provide the USPA S&TA, Examiner, and Instructor with guidelines to train skydivers to effectively deal with water landings.
  7. This section covers recommendations, procedures, and references for the following:
    1. training considerations for unintentional water landings
    2. wet training for water landings, both unintentional and intentional
    3. intentional water jumps

B. Training for unintentional water landings

  1. In the USPA Integrated Student Program, training recommendations for unintentional water landings are included in the obstacle landing training of Category A (the first-jump course).
  2. A more complete and detailed briefing outline is contained in SIM Section 5-1.F.

Dry (theoretical training)

  1. This training (including the date and location) should be documented in the student’s logbook and A-license application or on a separate statement and signed by a USPA S&TA, Examiner, or Instructor.
  2. Theoretical training should include classroom lessons covering:
    1. techniques for avoiding water hazards
    2. how to compensate for poor depth perception over water
    3. preparation for water entry
    4. additional risks of water landings in cold water temperatures
    5. recovery after landing
  3. Practice should combine both ground and training harness drills and should continue until the jumper is able to perform the procedures in a reasonable amount of time.

Wet (practical training)

  1. Wet training
    1. should be conducted following a class on theory
    2. should take place in a suitable environment such as a swimming pool, lake, or other body of water at least six feet deep
    3. meets the USPA B license training requirements for intentional water landings
  2. This training (including the date and location) should be documented in the jumper’s logbook and signed by a USPA S&TA, Examiner, or Instructor.
  3. Safety personnel should include properly trained and certified lifeguards.
    1. If suitably qualified skydivers are not available, assistance may normally be solicited from the local American Red Cross or other recognized training organization.
    2. Flotation gear and other lifesaving apparatus is recommended for non-swimmers.
    3. Persons conducting this training need to consider the safety of the participants.
  4. Review all theoretical and practical training.
  5. Initial training may be conducted in swimsuits, but final training is to be conducted in normal jump clothing to simulate a water landing.
    1. Non-swimmer: Training is to include basic skills covering breath control, bobbing, and front and back floating.
    2. Swimmer: Training is to include all of the above, plus the breast stroke, side stroke, back stroke, and treading water.
  6. While wearing a parachute harness and container system and all associated equipment, jump into the water.
    1. The USPA Instructor should then cast an open canopy over the jumper before any wave action subsides.
    2. Any type of canopy may be used.
    3. The jumper should then perform the steps necessary to escape from the equipment and the water.
    4. Repeat this drill until proficient.

C. Intentional water landings

  1. Any person intending to make an intentional water landing should:
    1. undergo preparatory training within 60 days of the water jump
      1. The training should be conducted by a USPA S&TA, Examiner, or Instructor.
      2. The training (including the date and location) should be documented in the jumper’s logbook and signed by a USPA S&TA, Examiner or Instructor.
    2. hold a USPA A license and have undergone wet training for water landings
    3. be a swimmer
  2. Theoretical training should include classroom lessons covering:
    1. preparations necessary for safe oper­ations
    2. equipment to be used
    3. procedures for the actual jump
    4. recovery of jumpers and equipment
    5. care of equipment
  3. Preparation
    1. Obtain advice for the water jump from the local USPA S&TA or Examiner (required by the BSRs).
    2. Check the landing site for underwater hazards.
    3. Use an altimeter for freefalls of 30 seconds or more.
    4. Provide no less than one recovery boat per jumper, or, if the aircraft drops one jumper per pass, one boat for every three jumpers.
    5. Boat personnel should include at least one qualified skydiver and stand-by swimmer with face mask, swim fins, and experience in lifesaving techniques, including resuscitation.
    6. Each jumper should be thoroughly briefed concerning the possible emergencies that may occur after water entry and the proper corrective procedures.
    7. opening altitude
      1. Jumpers should open no less than 3,000 feet AGL to provide ample time to prepare for water entry.
      2. This is especially true when the DZ is a small body of water and the jumper must concentrate on both accuracy and water entry.
    8. A second jump run should not be made until all jumpers from the first pass are safely aboard the pickup boat(s).
  4. After canopy inflation: In calm conditions with readily accessible pick-up boats, the best procedure is simply to inflate the flotation gear and concentrate on landing in the proper area.
  5. Landing
    1. In strong winds, choppy water conditions, in competitive water jump events, or if the flotation gear cannot be inflated, separation from equipment after water entry is essential.
    2. Instruments:
      1. Water may damage some altimeters and automatic activation devices.
      2. Skydivers jumping without standard instruments and AADs should use extra care.

D. High-performance landings in water

  1. Water may reduce injuries for jumpers who slightly misjudge high-performance landings, but jumpers have been seriously injured or killed after hitting the water too hard.
  2. Jumpers should obtain coaching from an experienced high-performance canopy pilot familiar with water hazard approaches and contact prior to attempting high-performance landings across water.
  3. Raised banks at the approach entry and exit from the body of water present a serious hazard.
  4. An injury upon landing in a water hazard can increase the jumper’s risk of drowning, so high-performance landings involving water should be approached with the standard water landing precautions, including the use of a flotation device.
  5. The area around the body of water should be clear of hazards and spectators in case high-speed contact with the water causes the jumper to lose control.

E. Water jump safety checks and briefings

  1. A complete equipment check should be performed with particular attention to any additional equipment to be used or carried for the water jump (refer to SIM Section 5-4 on equipment checks).
  2. Boat and ground crew briefings:
    1. communications procedures (smoke, radio, buoys, boats)
    2. wind limitations
    3. jump order
    4. control of spectators and other boats
    5. setting up the target
    6. maintenance of master log
    7. how to approach a jumper and canopy in the water (direction, proximity)